We visit Rodney Ascher’s Room 237 his documentary about Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining - Room 237 Film Review

Monday, October 08, 2012 Craig Grobler 0 Comments

Room 237 london film festivalTo say Stanley Kubrick is highly regarded within the world of film is an understatement, each of his films are revered as a masterpiece and if you don’t - you haven’t understood it! Well for me The Shining was a fairly straight forward film. I saw it at a young age and pretty much it was a film about the head of a family Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) slowly disintegrating into madness at the remote Overlook hotel during a snowy off season, with some interesting visual imagery and a twist finale that was ripped off and polished by M. Night Shyamalan some 19 years later for The Sixth Sense.

I have been told countless times how The Shining is the greatest horror film ever made almost as many times as I have been told that Kubrick is a master of film and everything he does is obsessionally thought out to the nth degree and meticulously executed so The Shining cannot just be a horror film.

I haven't read Stephen King's original novel so I have little to compare the film to the source material but eventually I acquiesced that Jack Nicholson’s performance is intensely harrowing and possibly Kubrick was drawing attention to similarities in the puzzle of the human mind symbolically linked to the Overlook Hotels internal structure, echoed with the maze outside. Over time and a couple more viewings I would come to see clues that led me to believe that one of the themes in The Shining is that it could be an allegory of modern man’s loss of humanity and regression rather than evolution*, an almost antithetical exploration and companion piece of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. *which oddly ties into some of the theories presented by Room 237.

Room 237 The Shining
Room 237 The Shining
So when I heard about Rodney Ascher’s Room 237 when it played at Sundance and then later at Cannes I was very excited, as any in depth exploration of cinema is, well really my bag especially a documentary analysing the complexity of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining – a film I couldn't quite engage with past its mediocre albe they classy horror elements.

Room 237 seemed to be an incredible opportunity to gain some insight into Stanley Kubrick’s multi-layered thinking behind The Shining enabling me to finally fully appreciate The Shining as it was meant.

Room 237
Many cult movies have their own radical interpretations but none as rich and far-ranging as Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Room 237 Poster
Room 237 Poster
In Room 237, we hear from people who believed they have decoded the far-reaching theories, hidden symbols and messages buried in the late director's film. Carefully examining The Shining forwards and backwards, Room 237 is equal parts captivating, provocative and pure pleasure.  A must see for movie buffs of all ages. Directed by Rodney Ascher.

The Establishing Shot: RODNEY ASCHER'S ROOM 237 TRAILER

As a film fan I admire Rodney Ascher’s dedication, commitment and creativity in making Room 237, particularly as the format and structure of his film is clever and engaging but sadly I left the cinema thinking that Ascher’s Room 237 was a bit of a wasted opportunity.

Room 237 Director Rodney Ascher
Room 237 Director Rodney Ascher
Rather than look into conscious or indeed the unconscious threads across Kubrick’s work or even analysing the dense semiotics employed by Kubrick, Ascher eschews all that - in favour of curating a handful of fan theories, theories that are seemingly some of the more extreme interpretations purporting to decipher secret themes and messages coded within The Shining rather than the mythology of Kubrick’s creativity.

Furthermore the film it feels like the theories are never fleshed out appropriately or come across as definitive or leading to a grand reveal - much like The Shining itself.

I’m not trying to take anything away from the theories presented as they could be very well researched but Room 237 doesn't give them any more gravitas than say any old IMDB troll/crackpots thoughts after staring at a screen obsessively longer than they should and seeing what they want to or more informed than something you would dig up over an hour of googling “The Shining theories” - possibly this is because there doesn't seem to be much in the way of supporting evidence presented and we are left to take it on faith that the faceless narration we hear is credible largely because Stanley Kubrick does not make any mistakes.

Calumet Baking Powder The Shining Room 237
Calumet Baking Powder = Native American genocide Room 237
My thoughts may be a bit unfair as a lot of people out there are raving about Room 237 but you should bear in mind that I am possibly an uber geek when it comes to delving into the thinking process of making the art and science of film and I can only view Room 237 as a novelty piece looking into the more quirky fan aspects of interpreting The Shining rather than in-depth exploration of arguably one of the greatest filmmakers to take ideas to screen - which is what I was hoping for to be followed by a lengthy discussion post screening.

Something that isn't lacking conviction is Jonathan Snipes, William Hutson and The Caretaker’s outstanding accompanying music, which is suitably haunting and adds a disturbing level of dark ambiance echoing the horror theme that Rodney Ascher creates across Room 237. I’m unsure of exactly which bits were from the score created by Jonathan Snipes & William Hutson and which was The Caretaker’s experimental music inspired by the ballroom scene in The Shining - but it all offers the same depth of brilliance as The Caretaker’s soundtrack for Patience (After Sebald).

Video: The Caretaker - The Haunted Ballroom

The documentary format of the film is really quite clever using footage from Kubrick’s as well as others films to add further depth to the narration and demonstrate key visual theories reinforced with well thought out and clearly painstakingly created effects and info graphics.

Room 237 The Shining Overlook Hotel Ball Room Guest
Room 237 The Shining Overlook Hotel Ball Room Guest
As exciting as the format is overall I felt the exploration of the theories offered are under par for a Director of Stanley Kubrick’s depth but Room 237 may appeal to a more general audience those fans less inclined to watch the extras on a DVD or Blu-Ray also Room 237 is definitely for anyone with a fondness for conspiracy theories.

Room 237 release date in the UK is 26 October 26 2012

For more info head over to: http://room237movie.com/

If Room 237 sounds interesting you may want to check out The S From Hell  Rodney Ascher’s short documentary exploring an inextricable fear that seems to be gripping TV audiences of the Screen Gems company logo.

BFI London Film Festival 2013
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